Feminists Disagree on Many Things but Abortion Can’t Be One of Them

by | October 4, 2012
filed under Can-Con, Feminism, Politics

by Jarrah Hodge

Calgary Herald columnist Naomi Lakritz says Rona Ambrose is a feminist.


In her latest piece, which ran this past Tuesday, Lakritz argues Ambrose’s feminist credentials were established when she “spoke for herself” in voting for the anti-choice M-312.

“I must have been absent the day the sisterhood held a meeting and decided all women must think alike, or risk being condemned as traitors to their gender. Looks like federal Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose didn’t get the memo, either,” begins Lakritz’ column.

Feminists didn’t speak out against our country’s Status of Women Minister because she didn’t comply with some kind of groupthink. Feminists disagree on a lot of things, big and small. We have disagreements on pornography, sex work, body hair, the SFU Men’s Centre, SlutWalk, whether Pinterest is killing the movement, whether Lady Gaga is a role model, even whether knitting is reclaiming feminist heritage or setting us back.

Where feminists know we can’t afford to disagree is the fundamental feminist issue of the right to choose to have an abortion.

Lakritz is wrong: being a privileged woman making up your own mind to take a certain action on something does not in and of itself make you feminist. Otherwise Sarah Palin’s a feminist. I guess Bev Oda was being a feminist too, when she made up her own mind to order the $16 orange juice. Phyllis Schafly endorsing Todd (“legitimate rape”) Akin “spoke for herself”, which under Lakritz’ definition makes her a feminist. If only I’d known it was so easy to be a feminist, I wouldn’t have spent most of my spare time for the past three years working on this blog.

In reality, your feminist cred is measured by your belief in and active support of gender equality, not just your self-determination. If you, in your self-determination, take action that jeopardizes the equality and constitutional rights of the women you’re supposed to represent, that’s not feminist.

I made this video a few months ago on why you have to be pro-choice to call yourself a feminist and it applies in this situation:

Even though the Conservatives don’t have a wealth of good candidates for the position, Rona Ambrose deserves to lose her job as Minister responsible for the Status of Women, because she voted in a way that would have set back the status of women. As the Change.org petition that now has over 13,000 signatures states:

Canadian women deserve a representative who understands that women are people with ambitions, dreams, obligations, friends and careers. Canadian women deserve a representative who believes that women are more than their biological abilities and that those abilities should never be regulated by the government. Canadian women deserve a representative who understands that the ONLY person capable of defining a woman’s future is that very woman. Canadian women deserve a representative that will fight to move us into the future. Canadian women deserve a representative who refuses to revisit the battles long past.

We have the right to hold the Status of Women Minister accountable for the content of her actions – the mere fact of her having actions isn’t enough.


P.S. Lakritz would also do well to check the facts on Bertha Wilson’s ruling in the Morgentaler case. What she actually wrote was: “The precise point in the development of the foetus at which the state’s interest becomes ‘compelling’ I leave to the informed judgment of the legislature which is in a position to receive guidance on the subject from all the relevant disciplines. It seems to me, however, that it might fall somewhere in the second trimester.”  Justice Bertha Wilson, R. v. Morgentaler, January 28, 1988, Supreme Court of Canada (page 113).

Legally this was almost an aside. It’s worth mentioning Wilson also wrote:

“Liberty in a free and democratic society does not require the state to approve the personal decisions made by its citizens; it does, however, require the state to respect them. A woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy falls within this class of protected decisions. It is one that will have profound psychological, economic, and social consequences for her. It is a decision that deeply reflects the way the woman thinks about herself and her relationship to others and to society at large. It is not just a medical decision; it is a profound social and ethical one as well.”

So it would be awesome if the anti-choicers would stop acting like Bertha Wilson was a champion of fetal rights. #kthxbye

(photo via Wikimedia Commons)

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  • Melissa Munro

    Thank you Jarrah, thank you Justice Wilson for your vision those years ago. Thank you, and always in our hearts and minds, Dr. Henry Morgentaler.

    Not only does Ambrose need to be removed; so too does her boss in allowing this ridiculous vote. Sorry Minister, but you will not make fools out of Canadian women – you have only made a fool of yourself. You do not represent me. You offend me. Thank you again Jarrah.

    • Alex Perrier

      How sad that anyone would consider Henry Morgentaler to be a “hero” or Rona Ambrose a “villain”. And in a democratic country, it is very sad to see “pro-choice” (hereafter pro-abortion) condemn a free vote. Even though it is sad that Harper and Rae voted against Motion 312, at least they allowed a free vote for the other MPs in their party. It would seem that NDP and minor parties, on the other hand, coerced their members to oppose the Motion, so 102 of them voted No while another 5 didn’t vote.

      Rona Ambrose did NOT make a fool of herself. She simply has an open mind about protecting children in the womb, unlike many pro-aborts who want unlimited subsidized abortion for all nine months of pregnancy.

      Even if the child is viable, can feel pain, or has virtually all the body parts of a newborn, pro-aborts want abortion while denying that this is killing children. Even though gendercide and late term abortions (after 20 weeks) combined account for less than 2% of all abortions, pro-aborts claim that both must exist for “protecting women’s rights”.

      Harper and Rae were reasonable to allow a free vote. Those who voted for Motion 312, such as Ambrose, were reasonable to allow a discussion to happen. Pro-aborts were NOT at all reasonable to uphold an outdated definition of a human person.

      • jarrahpenguin

        Again, don’t expect us to come to agreement but I have to take issue with your rhetoric calling me & other feminists “pro-aborts” – no one loves abortion. The problem is that making it illegal doesn’t help. The countries with the lowest abortion rates are the ones in which abortion is safe and legal. Even pro-choice women want to see a world one day where no one needs an abortion, but that can only happen when rape and incest are no longer realities and all women have the resources, agency, and knowledge they need to negotiate and practice safe sex.

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  • Linda

    “Where feminists know we can’t afford to disagree is the fundamental feminist issue of the right to choose to have an abortion.”

    So in other words: Women shouldn’t be allowed to think for themselves. Instead, we must fall in line with all the other women ho think that abortion is perfectly fine. We must, in fact, betray ourselves, our morals, and our intelligence for the sake of being “good feminists.” Is that what you’re saying? Well, I’m sorry, MA’AM. But if that’s what it takes to be a “good feminist,” then I would rather be a, “bad feminist.” Because, MA’AM, I am not willing to compromise my morals, my intelligence, or my good judgment for the sake of making you happy. I am, in fact, going to remain pro-life. I am, in fact, going to continue to protest abortion. And I am, in fact, going to fight you tooth and nail on this issue. Not only for the sake of the millions of babies who are murdered every day through through the horrendous act of abortion, but also for the sake of the women that you and every other pro-abort prey upon. If you don’t like that … Well, I think you know what you can do with your opinion.

    • jarrahpenguin

      Clearly we’re not going to agree but I will point out that you and the folks at Live Action News substituted the word “women” for “feminists” in my post. You as a woman are entitled to your opinion and you have a right to speak your mind on this issue.Women can do and think whatever they want.

      However, to call yourself a feminist (be you a woman or a man) I think you have to be committed to women’s equality, which includes abortion rights.

  • christina

    How does having an abortion make a woman equal to a man?

    • jarrahpenguin

      I believe I answer that in the video above. It’s not having an abortion but having the right to have it – the right to make what decision is best for you and your health. Like you, I believe an ideal world would have fewer abortions – I just believe the way to get there is to give women agency, information and resources and work against the inequality that facilitates violence against women and counter-productive policing of women’s sexuality – not to force medical procedures underground or into back alleys.

      • christina

        I guess I still don’t understand how a woman even having the opportunity to choose to abort and kill the child in her womb would make her equal to a man. Men and women both have the opportunity to choose not to have a child – before having sex. Both men & women need to take responsibility for their actions if it leads to an unwanted pregnancy. It seems like a double standard to me if the woman decides she wants to have an abortion, but the father of the child has no say – the child has half his DNA – why wouldn’t he get a choice too? Or, say he didn’t want the child, but she decides to choose life – shouldn’t he be allowed to not have to pay child support if he never wanted the child to begin with?

  • Rebecca Bernard

    The false notion that having an abortion makes a woman equal to a man comes from the Sexual Revolution’s archaic notion that men were able to ‘escape’ from the natural and logical consequences of sex but that women were not. However, as an attorney who does paternity establishment, I inform men daily that since he chose to have sex, he chose to have a child, including all the fatherly duties inherent with that choice. He may protest, “But I used a condom every time” or “She said she was on the pill” and then I calmly look at the DNA test results and say, “Too bad, so sad, you’re Dad!”

    Well, sisters, I think the same applies to women. If you chose to have sex, you chose to have a child. Just like the men, you knew going into sex that all pregnancy avoidance techniques are fallible and a child could result. If you didn’t want that consequence, then don’t ever let your body touch his. Period. I tell him that; I tell you that. The real choice for both genders was before sex occurred. After sex, both genders have already made their choice, and both genders need to have the character to accept the reality of the child.

    • Kim

      I don’t think that the notion that men are able to escape from the consequences of sex is archaic at all. Yes, okay they technically have to pay child support if they in fact do not want the child, but they are not required to stick around and be a father-figure. The truth of the matter is, child birth has so many more health, social, and economic implications for women than it does for men. Women must grow a child in their womb for 9 months; they must endure child labour; they must deal with the after-effects of birth; they often breastfeed; they most often take time off work to care for their newborn; they are the ones expected by society to be the primary caregiver for the child; if working professionals, they must work less hours to care for their children or pay for child care (which in BC is just insanely expensive)… the list goes on. I have several friends that have had fathers who sent their mothers monthly cheques growing up but had nothing to do with their children. What sounds easier to you?

      I tend to agree with Jarrah and her harm-reduction approach. Illegal and unhealthy abortions will still occur despite laws put in place to ban them. Therefore why should we put more women in harm’s way by forcing abortions underground when we can at least offer women the right to choose a safe viable option?

      I think that in not providing a women the right to choose, the pro-life argument counters feminist principles because it is another way of controlling female sexuality.

  • christina

    I 100% agree with you Rebecca Bernard! I was just trying to see what kind of answer the writer would provide. Obviously she cannot provide one that is valid.

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  • Becca

    Saying “don’t have sex if you don’t want a baby” is like saying “don’t drive if you don’t want to crash” or “don’t go hiking if you don’t want to get mauled by a bear” the facts are people will always have sex, unless you are socially inept, you WILL have sex and sometimes accidents happen. The average age where kids start experimenting with sex is 16. A 16 year old cant handle a baby, and their bodies and minds do not handle pregnancy well. You wouldn’t tell a school shooting victim ” we’ll have you never watched the news? Of course you’re gonna get shot! Why did you go to school?”

  • Violet

    I’ve heard this stuff before, but I eventually decided I’ve got to just cut my losses and decline the prestigious title. Even if it means I don’t get to have a title at all, feminist cred is less important to me than having a soul.

  • Chris

    This is totalitarian and excludes religious feminists. Disgraceful.

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